Memories of Mike Modano

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Modano4.jpgI’m not going to do an exact retrospective on Mike Modano’s great
career, since we’re not even certain he’s retiring. If and when he
announces his retirement this summer, then we’ll take a look at his
great numbers and career accomplishments. For now, I’m just going to
talk about Mike Modano and my memories of the best player in Stars
franchise history as he plays what is likely his final home game tonight
against the Anaheim Ducks.

I grew up a Dallas Stars fan, when my family and I worked as
volunteers at Reunion Arena in the early 1990’s. It was incredible for
me to be able to be so close to the players and the behind the scenes
workings of a hockey game, especially since many times we covered the
entrance where the players would enter before the games. Shane Churla,
Kevin Hatcher, Dave Gagner, Grant Ledyard, Todd Harvey — all players
that I was able to get to know off the ice. Mike Modano? Well, he was
this mystical figure that everyone was crazy about, and when he
acknowledged you with “hi”, a pat on the head or a hand shake it was
just an incredible feeling.

Of course, it’s the memories of Modano
on the ice that stand out to me. It’s tough to pinpoint very specific
moments without looking them up; instead, it’s a mashup of nearly 20
years of memories that leave me with just an overall feeling of greatness and the feeling of watching a legend play night in and night out.

Modano2.jpgThe
sight of Modano flying effortless across the ice from one end to the
other, that Stars jersey flapping in the wind, is the image that will
always be in my head when thinking of Modano. I don’t know if there’s
any other player in the NHL that was able to be so much faster than
those around him without looking like he was skating that much harder.

His
ability to bury a one timer from anywhere on the ice. It’s not exactly
at the level that Brett Hull reached in his career, but that was easily
Modano’s best asset. That smooth, easy and extremely powerful stroke
that was deadly accurate is a shot that he still uses to this day, and
every time he finds some way to score on a hard shot from a bad angle it
brings chills to my skin.

I’ll also never forget Modano’s
backhand shot, an art that seems to be lost these days and one that
Modano used to score with from incredible angles. I’ll never forget
seeing Modano score from near the blue line on an incredibly accurate
backhand shot, that painted the upper corner of the net. I don’t think
I’ve ever seen a shot quite like that.

His offense and his speed
will always be what Modano is known for, but it’s his selflessness and
his team-first attitude are what I’ll remember most. Mike Modano was
drafted by the Minnesota North Stars for his incredible offensive
ability, yet after the team moved to Dallas and hired Ken Hitchcock as
coach the franchise shifted philosophies. The Stars became a defensive
team, and asked Modano to take on a more defensive-minded approach. Not
only did he embrace the new role but he became perhaps the best wo-way
player in the NHL.

Later in his career, he was asked to become a
checking line center as his offensive skills and speed declined and
fully embraced that role as well. He had the option of leaving Dallas
for a more lucrative contract a few years back, but instead took a bit
of a discount to stay with the team he’s always played for. The
incredible line of Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen will go
down as the best line the Stars have ever and likely ever will put on
the ice. Modano’s playmaking ability perfectly matched with Hull’s
scoring tough, and Lehtinen rounded it all off with some incredible
defensive prowess.

I’ll also never forget seeing Mike Modano slam
into the boards behind the net after Ruslan Sulei gave him a nice push
in the back. He slammed head first into the boards, a sight that
immediately looked as though Modano had broken his neck. It’s perhaps
the most gruesome play I had ever seen in hockey, and seeing Modano lie
motionless on the ice as he was strapped into a stretcher made everyone
immediately question what life would be like without him on the team.
There were tears in the eyes of every Stars fan that night.

It’s
tough to imagine the Dallas Stars taking the ice without Mike Modano on
the team. He’s been the face of the franchise for so long, and was the
perfect player for the team to have to be able to market the team in
Dallas. He helped make hockey into a incredibly popular sport in North
Texas and I’m still struggling to think of him not playing with a Stars
jersey on his back.

He may come back next season, but I doubt he
does it with any team other than the Dallas Stars. He’s passed up
numerous opportunities to be traded to much better teams contending for
the Stanley Cup, and he’s decided to stay in Dallas even through these
tough seasons of late. He is and forever will be a Dallas Star, and if
he does retire he will instantly be welcomed to be a member of the front
office. He may be part of an ownership group that purchases the
franchise but if not, he’ll be associated with the team in some
important capacity as soon as he retires.

Modano3.jpg

If this is indeed your
final home game in Dallas, Mike, then we bid you a warm and teary-eyed
adieu.

Jets sign towering prospect Stanley to entry-level deal

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Logan Stanley celebrates with the Winnepeg Jets after being selected 18th during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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One of the biggest — literally, biggest — prospects taken at this June’s draft has been signed to his entry-level deal.

Logan Stanley, the 6-foot-7, 231-pound rearguard taken 18th overall by the Jets, inked a three-year contract with an average annual value of $1,137,500, the club announced on Tuesday.

Stanley, 18, is currently with OHL Windsor, though he did have a brief cameo with Winnipeg during training camp. He, along with another first-round pick — Jack Roslovic — were dropped from camp in early October.

“[Stanley] is a guy that is going to continue to grow, grow into his body, grow into his frame, grow into his game,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told NHL.com. “There’s lot of room for development, and that’s what makes him a really exciting prospect.”

Stanley has shown a bit more offensive upside this year, his third with the Spits. After scoring just 17 points in 64 games last season, he already has nine through 20 games this season.

The Jets actually traded up at the draft to get Stanley, sending the 22nd and 36th overall selections to the Flyers in exchange for the 18th and 79th overall picks.

Blues place Bortuzzo on IR, he will miss at least six weeks

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 03:  Robert Bortuzzo #41 of the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center on April 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues are going to be without defenseman Robert Boruzzo for more than a month due to a lower body injury that he suffered in their most recent game against the Winnipeg Jets.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced on Tuesday that Bortuzzo has been placed on injured reserve and that he will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

Bortuzzo has only appeared in 11 games for the Blues this season but has played well when he has been on the ice, mostly in a third pairing role. He only has two points on the year, but offense has never been a big part of his game. He is mostly more of a stay-at-home defender and his defensive numbers this season have been mostly impressive. The Blues have allowed just 1.31 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play with Bortuzzo on the ice this season (the best mark on the team) and only 48 total shot attempts per 60 minutes (third best on the team).

With Bortuzzo heading to injured reserve, the team also announced that Joel Edmundson has been activated from IR after he missed the past 12 games with an upper body injury. Edmundson has one assist in 13 games this season for the Blues.

The Blues acquired Bortuzzo from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2014-15 season in exchange for Ian Cole.

In 64 games with the Blues since the trade he has four goals and three assists.

Goalie nods: Habs start Montoya for first time in over two weeks

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 02:  Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre on November 2, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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And for the eighth game, Carey rested.

Tonight in St. Louis, Al Montoya will be in goal when the Habs take on the Blues at Scottrade. The decision will end Carey Price‘s streak of consecutive starts at seven, and give Montoya his first nod since allowing three goals on 18 shots in a loss to Carolina on Nov. 18.

Since then, it’s been all Price, all the time.

The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner closed out November in style — finishing the month with a .944 save percentage — but could definitely use a break, especially after a wild game on Sunday in which he beat the Kings, 5-4, in a shootout.

It’ll be really interesting to see how Montoya does tonight.

He was infamously left in for every goal during a 10-0 destruction in Columbus on Nov. 4, and things haven’t been the same since. The journeyman was terrific going into that Columbus game (3-0-1, .955 save percentage, one shutout), but has found it difficult to reclaim that form, and has lost each of his last two starts.

For the Blues, Jake Allen goes tonight.

Elsewhere…

Cam Talbot, coming off a 33-save win in OT against the Ducks on Sunday, goes for the Oilers in Buffalo. The Sabres are going with Anders Nilsson after Robin Lehner started the last two.

— Vancouver’s turning to Jacob Markstrom after Ryan Miller started each of the last three games. The Canucks will face a familiar foe in ex-Vancouver netminder Cory Schneider, who starts for the Devils.

— Tonight’s Battle of New York will see Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers take on Jaroslav Halak and the Isles.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo the night off in Philly (or, he’s expected to, given Luongo played last night). The Flyers are going with Steve Mason, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week.

Semyon Varlamov will look to snap a three-game losing streak when the Avs visit Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going with Pekka Rinne.

Petr Mrazek, who has played well since Jimmy Howard went down to injury (posting a .935 save percentage), will start in Winnipeg. The Jets counter with Connor Hellebuyck, who beat the Red Wings earlier this season on the strength of a 30-save effort.

— It’s Mike Smith versus Scott Darling as the Coyotes take on the ‘Hawks in Chicago.

— Calgary will keep rolling with Chad Johnson when it takes on the Stars in Dallas tonight. Lindy Ruff has confirmed that Kari Lehtonen, fresh off his first shutout of the year on Saturday against the Avs, will be back in goal.

McDavid, Crosby, Price and Kane lead All-Star voting through first week

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 23:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on November 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Oilers defeated the Avalanche 6-3. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Voting for the 2017 NHL All-Star game has been underway for more than a week now, and on Tuesday afternoon the league announced the early leaders from each division.

The game, which will take place in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, will feature the same format as last year’s game with the four divisions taking part in a 3-on-3 tournament.

Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer, is the top vote-getter in the Pacific Division, while Sidney Crosby, currently the NHL’s leading goal scorer, is leading the Metropolitan Division.

Montreal’s Carey Price and Chicago’s Patrick Kane, the past two MVP winners, are leading the Atlantic and Central divisions respectively.

Unlike last season when John Scott dominated the voting, there are no surprise players in the early results. The league put new voting guidelines in place this season and limited voting only to players that are on an active NHL roster.

Here are is an early look at the top-five vote getters from each division.

Montreal (Price and Shea Weber), Pittsburgh (Crosby and Phil Kessel), and San Jose (Brent Burns and Joe Thornton) are the three teams that currently have two players in the top five of their division.

Atlantic
1. Carey Price, Montreal
2. Jaromir Jagr, Florida
3. Shea Weber, Montreal
4. Jack Eichel, Buffalo
5. Patrice Bergeron, Boston

Central
1. Patrick Kane, Chicago
2. P.K. Subban, Nashville
3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago
4. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis

Metropolitan
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
3. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh
4. John Tavares, NY Islanders
5. Taylor Hall, New Jersey

Pacific
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton
2. Brent Burns, San Jose
3. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary
4. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
5. Joe Thornton, San Jose